Royal Opera House
Thursday, 17th May 2018
Swan Lake – 05/17/2018
Odette/Odile: Marianela Nunez
Prince Siegfried: Vadim Muntagirov
Von Rothbart: Bennet Gartside
Benno: Alexander Campbell
Siegfried’s sisters: Francesca Hayward, Akane Takada
Big swans: Claire Calvert, Mayara Magri
Cygnets: Elizabeth Harrod, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Romany Pajdak, Leticia Stock
I was dying to attend Liam’s new Swan Lake, but also so so worried to see what would have come out. Among Liam’s works I’ve loved Frankenstein, and I adore shorter production such as Viscera and Asphodel Meadows, but I did not like Symphonic Dances last year, nor the Age of Anxiety during the Bernstein Centenary (not at all). Fortunately, his Swan Lake was far more classic than expected and I ADORED it.
I attended the Insights evening at the Clore Studio Upstairs on May 10th, when Liam was joined by John Macfarlane (the genius himself) for a preview of the new production, and the past week felt like a lifetime being barely able to sit still waiting for opening night. Why? Well, the answer is Queen Nela + Vadream!
Predictably, I had to say goodbye to make up (and public decency as I was unsuccessfully struggling not to cry and I clamorously failed) and welcome to smile wrinkles (at the end of the pas de deux rehearsal I realised my face was hurting).
It’s been amazing to hear from Liam on his brand new Swan Lake, and above all, watching Marianela and Vadim rehearsing act 4’s pas de deux absolutely blew me away, tore me to tears and made me giggle like a freak. They moved like poetry in motion, and Nela’s hands… God, even her fingers seemed to be spreading emotions!
So, obviously, who could lead the company better than the Queen herself? Nela shone bright: she’s such a special artist and her dance is always sublime! She really has poise and elegance to fill a million opera houses!
Her speedy and dazzling technique was in such perfect harmony with the character, and what a phenomenal shift from Odette to Odile! There’s definitely no other ballerina able to be so Odette and so Odile. Nela mastered each one with character that, if I didn’t knew her acting capacities, would actually scare me as she could seem bipolar! The truth is, she’s a goddess and that’s it folks. Period.
From astonishing splendidly as Odette to slaying wondrously as Odile, from the personification of elegance and grace to pure flirtatious charisma and allure, Nela smashed the role with her usual greatness.
She gave such a pure White Swan in act 2 and 4, so divine with her eternal balances superb lines, as well as the added bonus of a hell of interpretation. Odette’s role requires the most polished and flawless of techniques, which is something Nela absolutely owns: indeed, she was astounding in the adagio work, paired with such emotional interpretation, and she showcased soft and delicate vulnerability as the Swan Queen bound to the lake.
Then in act 3, she turned commanding and mischievous as Von Rothbart’s devious daughter Odile, pulling of incredible strength (THOSE FOUETTÉS GUYS!) and opposite-in-style and personality. Her sharpness was so in contrast with Odette’s previous delicacy that it really got me staring like… ‘ok is this for real or what?’
I actually forgot to breathe during her solo and following coda. I was in total awe and adoration: let’s be honest and take a moment to applaud Nela’s amazingness as everyone’s favourite, Odile. Because guys, that smirk!! Nela’s grin while slaying as the black swan was the best thing ever, and that never ending balance in the coda… wow, the public went wild for her!
Along with a stellar Vadim they brought the house down – he was on top form as he flew so unbelievably high as Prince Siegfried. He was just too perfect for words.
The first act waltz and polonaise were a total feast for the eyes and the soul, led by Olivia Cowley, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Fumi Kaneko, Mayara Magri, Matthew Ball, James Hay, Fernando Montano and Marcelino Sambé in their dashing uniforms. Alex was amazing as Benno (Siegfried’s friend) and he gave a superbe performance throughout the whole ballet, in particular in the pas de trots with Siegfried’s younger sisters, Frankie and Akane. Yeah, only Royal can pull out three principals for a pas de trois, and how wonderful were they! Solos and ensembles were so flawlessly performed by the three of them. And can we please talk about the costumes? Wow, every single one of them was such a masterpiece – the Queen’s (Elizabeth McGorian) one was so impressive, and the ‘little’ princesses’ ones were so elegant and shining. Also, in act 2 and 4 tutus make such a difference. I used to love Sir Anthony Dowell’s dresses, but that was before yesterday night!
I thought that the uniforms (both Siegfried’s and Benno’s) were a bit too Nutcracker-like, but I liked them anyway, and I loved that Liam and John Macfarlane decided to give the four princesses in act 3 new costumes, so that they don’t turn out wearing the same dress, as they said during the Insights evening. The princesses tutus were actually so great, each one different from the other and embellished with details from the country they were representing and followed by their pals’ dances, yet with impressive dresses as well (the Spanish gown was beautiful).
The four act 3 predator princesses trying to win Siegfried’s favour were amazing: Itziar Mendizabal danced as the Spanish Princess, followed by an impressive Spanish dance from Tierney Heap, Reece Clarke, Nicol Edmonds, Ben Ella and Fernando Montano.
Melissa Hamilton played the Hungarian Princess, with Olivia Cowley, Tristan Dyer, Grace Blundell, Ashley Dean, Isabella Gasparini, Gemma Pitchley-Gale, Harry Churches, Leo Dixon, Kevin Emerton and David Yudes in the Czardas.
Yuhui Choe was lovely as the Italian Princess, and Meaghan and Marcelino’s Neapolitan dance was so good! It was excellently performed, with vibes from Ashton’s Neapolitan dance.
Beatriz was the Polish Princess, so beautiful in her red tutu and tiara and leading her fellow Mazurka dancers Nathalie Harrison, William Bracewell, Hannah Grennell, Demelza Parish, David Donnelly and Calvin Richardson.
Act 3 was just so spectacular with its super lavish sets and designs: that ballroom is such a Macfarlane’s masterpiece!
In act 2 Mayara and Claire did great as the big swans, and the Cygnets – Elizabeth, Meaghan, Romany Pajdak and Leticia Stock – were adorable.
I loved loved loved loved Liam’s new Swan Lake: the swan scenes were mind blowing, I’ve been shedding tears from Nela’s very first entrance, and those sets though… the glamour of the palace in act 1 and 3, and the atmospheric design of the lake in act 2 and 4! ART.
The whole ballet was just phenomenal and so spectacular, and Vadim and Neal got their well deserved flower shower at the curtain call.
Liam’s additional choreographies and touches are bloody brilliant, and I am desperate to see it again (next show is on Monday, Nela and Vadim once again).
Thankfully, a well nourished bucket of tickets awaits me in the next weeks, but first: Windsor bound for the Royal Wedding tomorrow (getting up way before the break of dawn)!
I’m not a fan of Meghan (I’m Team Kate to the moon and back), but I’ll be there anyway – I mean, it’s a Royal Wedding… and Prince Harry could still change his mind, isn’t it?